The NBA is full of young, up-and-coming point guards who have made a name for themselves on their respective teams. Almost every team has an All-Star-caliber point guard, and the talent at the position is greater than it has ever been before.
John Wall and Kyrie Irving are two young point guards who are currently stuck on bad teams. Wall was the first pick of the 2010 NBA draft, while Irving was the first pick in the 2011 draft.
Both players registered fantastic rookie seasons, but Irving was the one who broke out this year and got selected to participate in the All-Star game as a reserve. Wall on the other hand, looked like he was slowly being forgotten because he suffered a stress injury before the season even started (via The Washington Post).
However, Wall returned with full force and made a statement.
Wall is currently averaging a career high 18.0 PPG, along with 7.6 APG while playing just 32 minutes per game. His PER of 20.7 is also a career high (per Basketball Reference), as well as his 44.6 percent field-goal percentage. Furthermore, he has led his Washington Wizards to a 24-20 record since his return, and they would probably be contending for a playoff spot if he had been playing the whole season.
Both Wall and Irving are adept at getting to the basket and finishing. According to Hoop Data, they both have converted on approximately 60 percent of their attempts at the rim throughout their careers thus far.
Breaking down defenses and getting to the rim is a crucial part of each of these point guards' games. Their ability to finish close-range attempts puts them on par with the likes of Russell Westbrook and a healthy Derrick Rose.
Interestingly enough, Wall and Irving have suffered from numerous injuries in their young careers. Wall missed 13 games in his rookie season, and over 30 games this season because of stress-related injuries. On the other hand, Irving has suffered a plethora of unrelated injuries in the past two years, ranging from a broken hand to a strained shoulder.
Although they are young, injuries could accumulate over time and limit one's potential in the future, so they must find a way to stay healthy.
While Wall relies more on quickness and athleticism, Irving uses his crafty ball-handling skills and hesitation moves to maneuver himself around defenses. Irving isn't blessed with the raw athletic ability of Wall, but he makes use of what's given to him.
Irving's shooting ability is miles ahead of Wall at this point. Even though Wall has shown improvement in his outside touch this season, his mid-range and three-point game still can't hold a candle to that of Irving.
While Wall's shooting is still unreliable, his superior rebounding and passing abilities make up for it. Per 36 minutes this season, Wall is registering 8.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds, which trumps Irving's 6.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds. However, Wall is physically bigger and taller than Irving, so it's natural that he would have an advantage on the glass.
Improvement Since Rookie Season
One way to predict a player's ceiling is to analyze his development since he came into the league.
At a glance, it would look like Irving has improved much more than Wall. He's averaging four more points per game this season and garnered an All-Star selection while Wall was nursing his injury on the sidelines.
If you look at the statistics more in-depth, however, Irving's numbers are relatively the same compared to his rookie season. Per 36 minutes, he's only averaging 1.4 more points, and both his rebounds and assists are down. His PER of 21.6 is relatively even with his PER of 21.4 last season as well.
Wall on the other hand, has shown significant strides in the 44 games he has played in this season. His field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, efficiency and numerous categories per 36 minutes have increased every year since he's been in the league.
Additionally, he's doing something that Irving has yet to figure out how to do—leading his team to wins.
Wall and Irving are just 22 and 21 years of age, respectively, and they both have very bright futures. Which one of them has more potential to be great?